Like some sort of welcome viral pandemic, the production of horror films in the Asia-Pacific region continues to escalate. THE TATTOOIST, a unique co-production between New Zealand and Singapore (with funding from the countries’ respective government film commissions and MediaCorp Raintree Pictures), is the latest dark contender seeking to make an indelible mark on audiences. Starring Jason Behr (of THE GRUDGE)—who, incidentally, becomes the second Minnesotan after 30 DAYS OF NIGHT’s Josh Hartnett to front a horror film shooting in New Zealand this year—THE TATTOOIST is a supernatural thriller that investigates the ancient and mystical Samoan tradition of tautau. Behr plays American traveler and tattooist Jake Sawyer, whose interest in ethnic body art leads him to an encounter with a malevolent spirit. Joining Behr in the cast are HERCULES and XENA’s Michael Hurst, Mia Blake and fellow Kiwis David Fane and Robbie Magasiva. Singaporean TV fave Caroline Cheong also has a central role.
TATTOOIST producer Robin Scholes previously dealt with violence of a more human spirit in the downbeat and devastating drama ONCE WERE WARRIORS (and, reports Variety, recently signed to co-produce a Kiwi-Korean horror film called BELOVED). Director Peter Burger, who comes from a background in TV and shorts, makes his feature debut on THE TATTOOIST; composer James Hall will provide the score, but if production designer Gary Mackay, here in league with cinematographer Leon (WHALE RIDER) Narbey, can get the Auckland and Singapore locations to look as creepy and foreboding as his work on the underrated NZ horror flick THE LOCALS, then half the job is done.
Based on an idea by Vela Manusuate, THE TATTOOIST was scripted by Jonathan King and Matthew Grainger. Back in April, while feverishly working on the set of his own feature debut BLACK SHEEP, King seemed proud of his work on THE TATTOOIST, promising something altogether darker and more serious than his tale of ovine mania (on which Grainger served as a script consultant). THE TATTOOIST commenced principal photography on September 16, and already has guaranteed distribution in Australia and New Zealand through Buena Vista International. At present there’s no U.S. deal to release THE TATTOOIST, but rest assured Fango will be needling you with further updates in the near future.